5 Early Warning Signs for Alzheimer's Disease

Mar 30, 2016

5 Early Warning Signs for Alzheimer's Disease

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Alzheimer’s disease is defined as a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes. It is the most common form of dementia, which is the loss of intellectual function and cognitive ability.

It affects millions of Americans and is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, someone develops the disease every 67 seconds in the U.S.

Alzheimer’s disease not only impacts the person that has it, but also family members, friends, caregivers, or anyone else close to the individual. People with Alzheimer’s do not act like themselves, and that can be emotionally exhausting for both the person with the disease and loved ones.

While there are no ways to prevent the disease or cure it, there are methods to slow the progression, making life much easier to live. The disease must be recognized and diagnosed before it progresses too far so that it can be slowed. The only way to do that is to know the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s. It is important for everyone to know and understand the early warning signs, so it can be detected as early as possible.

Early Warning Signs

The warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease can be tricky; some may seem like symptoms of aging and some may not ever surface. Every person is different, so every case is different as well. Below outlines a few of the most common early warning signs of Alzheimer’s.

1. Losing things, misplacing things, and memory loss

This is more than just forgetting where you put your keys; this is to the point where it impacts your life. This is when you find your keys in the freezer, or you forget what your keys are even for. It is very common, as you age, to have some forgetful moments and misplace items, but when it happens chronically is when it might be a problem and an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Forgetting newly learned information and other things such as important dates can also be warning signs.

2. Difficulty communicating

Maybe you have noticed that holding a conversation has gotten more difficult, you forget what the story line is, what someone just said, what you just said. Repetition may also be a common theme. When you forget what you or someone else has just said, you may ask the same question repeatedly or say the same thing over and over again. Another aspect with communication difficulties is forgetting the common name for someone or something. You may notice the creation of different names for common items like a wrist clock for a watch and a channel changer for a television remote.

3. Impaired judgment

The types of judgment that are often impaired are the vision and spatial relations. When someone is having problems seeing correctly or being able to judge distances, they can be a danger to themselves and others especially if they drive. It can also be applied to money. Someone with early signs of Alzheimer’s may be giving money to strangers like telemarketers, or not paying for utilities because they think they are taking advantage of them. Impaired judgment can lead to many other “sub-signs,” but the inappropriate behavior is one of the most likely, and is rooted from forgetting the difference between right and wrong. This can be portrayed in a number of different behaviors from being more blunt than appropriate to shoplifting.

4. Mood and personality change

Being moody with quick changes in personality and behavior is a sign of Alzheimer’s. Confusion, suspicion, depression, fearfulness, and anxiousness are all feelings that many people with Alzheimer’s feel because they are not sure what is going on and what to do about it. They find that creating a routine can be soothing because doing the same thing is comforting. Any sort of changes that make you feel out of your comfort zone can lead to outbursts.

5. Strange or different eating habits

You might notice that you are eating more, approximately 500 more calories a day, but still losing weight. This is most likely due to changes in the metabolism. Out of the ordinary combinations of food could be a sign too because you may not realize that pickles and chocolate ice cream do not usually go together. All you know if that you are hungry and that those will fulfill your need. Consumption of inanimate objects, like paper, is also a possibility. The exact reason for this is unknown, but probably has to do with the brain receiving hunger signals, but not knowing how to react.

You or your loved one may not exude all of these symptoms, but a few of them may seem very familiar. If they do, visit your doctor! An early diagnosis is essential in maintaining your quality of life.

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Frequently Asked Questions

I want to make sure that our mother has more than just care for her Alzheimer’s at her new community. What are some activities that people in memory care can enjoy?

Although memory care can be a very intensive experience, there’s no reason that leisure shouldn’t be included! Activities will vary based on each community, however, many communities focus on things to keep seniors intellectually and socially engaged. Depending on an individual’s mobility, they may be able to take part in community outings and group exercise classes. Other activities like gardening, painting, and cooking classes allow seniors to learn new skills while also remaining social.

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My husband has recently become more forgetful and I don't want to jump to conclusions, but I'm scared that it might be Alzheimer's. What are some of the symptoms to look for?

Don’t worry; mild forgetfulness is actually a normal part of growing older for many people. His forgetfulness may even be caused by treatable side effects from medication, or perhaps a vitamin B12 deficiency.

However, there are several other more serious conditions that may induce memory loss. The main symptoms of Alzheimer’s include: confusion during routine tasks or familiar settings, difficulty with spatial judgments, and sharp changes in mood or personality. In any case, scheduling an appointment with your doctor to evaluate his condition is a great way to put your mind at ease.

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